Since we were driving from Glacier to Banff, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see a bit more of Canada on our drive – especially to see the Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton Lakes National Park as well as what we considered a few unique activities in Calgary (Bobsledding and Zip Lining). This itinerary will not do justice to everything you could do in these areas but if you are traveling between Glacier and Banff, it does make for an incredible day.
Our goal was to have breakfast at the famous Prince of Wales hotel in Waterton Lakes National Park which ends at 10:00, so we left early to cross the border at the Chief Mountain Border crossing and make our way to the hotel by 8:30. This historic hotel sits on cliff looking directly out over the mountain ranges on each side and Waterton Lake in between. There was no wait and enjoying a cup of coffee and Saskatoon Pancakes with Saskatoon berries while enjoying the wall to wall window view makes up for the early morning start. After breakfast, it is worth spending some time in the gift shop and wandering around the grounds and hotel for a bit if only to inspire you to plan another trip to spend more time here.
After breakfast, it was on to Calgary as we were excited to have found the opportunity to ride both a bob sleigh and the fastest zip line in North America at 120 km/hour (you are in Canada so it’s only fitting to use the metric system). We only had one stop first and that was to see the Wonderland Sculpture in downtown Calgary. We had become fans of Jaume Plensa after seeing his massive sculptures during a national tour in Dallas and again in Millennium Park in Chicago. When we found out he had another sculpture in Calgary, we wanted to make this small side trip into downtown to see it. Of course, this is a preference others may want to skip (unless you really like his work) as you do have to contend with traffic in downtown Calgary.
It was then on to Winsport, Winter Sport Institute, site of the 1988 Winter Olympics (made famous by the Jamaican bob sleigh team) and now a playground for locals who want to mountain bike, zipline, bob sleigh and road luge. We checked in early and had a quick lunch of grilled cheese sandwiches – and talked with a few of the surprising number of Australians who have moved here to enjoy both the winter and summer activities.
If you book the ziplines, you can purchase the three run package which includes a training run, the Monster Zipline and the Plaza Zipline. The Monster Zipline goes so fast you have to carry a hand-held parachute which helps slow you down right before the end of the line. And if you have kids, this is a great way to make them a little less angry with you when you tell them you will be going bob sledding (which is limited to ages 16 or older). The bob sleigh (or bob sled whichever you prefer) runs on a dry course during the summer and ice during the winter. The winter runs are faster but you have to keep your head down. The summer runs are slower but you get the advantage being able to see the entire time versus seeing just your feet and holding on as tight as you can. It was definitely a bucket list item for us and was enhanced even more when we learned our driver was on the Canadian Bob Sleigh team training for the 2018 Winter Olympics.
You can wrap up the visit by enjoying a few runs down the Skyline Luge and then driving roughly two hours to Banff. If you want to book an early dinner along the way, Three Ravens, in Banff has amazing views of the mountains or you can simply head on to the hotel to enjoy the Canadian Rockies.